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Allegheny Wood Products Logs in Canyon, Violates Agreement with WV Sierra Club
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by Jim Sconyers | 2008

Why Eternal Vigilence is the key to protecting our natural treasures

When Allegheny Wood Products (AWP) logged in Blackwater Canyon in 1998, West Virginia Sierra Club (WVSC) informed the company that they were impacting four animal species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. As a result, AWP and WVSC negotiated an agreement. The most significant, and crucial, element of this agreement is a requirement that AWP will give the Sierra Club 60 days advance notice before any logging in the Canyon.

Fast Forward to May 2008 
In May we learned through third parties that AWP had been logging in the Canyon since March. They had given no notice to WVSC, in stark and blatant violation of our agreement. When WVSC demanded an immediate end to the logging, AWP quickly agreed and removed logging crews from the Canyon. AWP then gave us the 60 days notice that should have been given at least 6 months earlier. At this point the damage had been done. The trees were down. If endangered species were in the way, it was too late to protect them. And the company had profited from its illicit logging.

Why 60 Days Matters 
AWP has been on notice from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for a decade. FWS is the agency that administers the Endangered Species Act. Ten years ago FWS notified Allegheny Wood Products that there are four endangered species in the Canyon.

They informed AWP that they needed two special documents: a Habitat Conservation Plan and an Incidental Take permit. Our agreement with AWP required that AWP “initiate discussion” with Fish and Wildlife over a Habitat Conservation Plan and an Incidental Take permit. Now ten years later, the Plan and the Permit do not exist.

If logging or other activities threaten protected species, we and anyone else can sue under the Endangered Species Act. However, the Act requires that we give 60 days advance notice to the party doing the logging and FWS. Hence the requirement in our agreement with AWP that they must, in turn, give us 60 days notice. This makes the advance notice so critical.

WVSC Deprived of Opportunity to Protect
Allegheny’s failure to provide the required advance notice cost us, and it cost the natural environment of the Blackwater Canyon. We were deprived of the advance notice mandated by our agreement. We were deprived of the ability to activate processes enshrined in the Endangered Species Act. And the endangered species in the Canyon may have been unnecessarily and improperly damaged because of our inability to jumpstart protective measures.

Going Forward
We have now filed the 60 days notice to Allegheny Wood Products and the Fish and Wildlife Service, indicating that we may sue over further logging in violation of the Endangered Species Act. WVSC joined with Friends of Blackwater and a number of other concerned groups in filing the notice. Reason: apparently AWP has plans for further logging in the Canyon. They have filed additional Timbering Notices with the state forestry office.

Questions Remaining 
Will we have to sue Allegheny over past and future logging in Blackwater? Will AWP finally act on its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act? Will the company recognize its responsibility to honor binding agreements? These questions are open.

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